HomeColumbiaColumbia prison supervisor faces charges for illegal cellphone scheme

Columbia prison supervisor faces charges for illegal cellphone scheme

Columbia, South Carolina – Federal officials say that Christine Mary Livingston, 46, took bribes totaling more than $219,000 over three years to get 173 illegal cellphones for inmates while working as a supervisor at a prison in South Carolina. Christine Mary Livingston, 46, was indicted earlier this month on 15 charges including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. She had worked for the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 16 years. In 2016, she was promoted to captain at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, where she was in charge of security at the medium-security prison.

Authorities say that Livingston worked with prisoner Jerell Reaves, 33, to get bribes for cellphones and other prohibited items. The federal indictment made public on Thursday indicates that the app Cash App was used to make transactions ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 per phone. Prosecutors said that Reaves was known as “Hell Rell” and Livingston as “Hell Rell’s Queen.”

Both face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and an order to pay back the money they earned illegally if convicted. Reaves is serving 15-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter in an incident that took place at a Marion County convenience store in 2015. Contraband cellphones in South Carolina prisons have been a long-running problem. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said inmates have run drug rings, fraud schemes and have even ordered killings from behind bars.

A 2018 riot that killed seven inmates at Lee Correctional Intuition was fueled by cellphones.

“This woman broke the public trust in South Carolina, making our prisons less safe for inmates, staff and the community. We will absolutely not tolerate officers and employees bringing contraband into our prisons, and I’m glad she is being held accountable,” Stirling said in a statement as reported by AP.

Read also: City of Columbia to host its third Career Fair on April 24, registration is now open

The prison system in South Carolina has been asking federal authorities for permission to block cellphone signals in prisons but has not received approval. However, they’ve made progress with a new technology that detects all cellphones within prison facilities. This allows staff to ask mobile phone companies to disable these unauthorized devices, although due to limited funding, this technology has only been tested in one prison so far.

In a related incident, Corrections Director Bryan Stirling shared a video in January showing an inmate who, frustrated that his phone was disabled, called a tech support line asking how to reactivate it. He was directed to contact a hotline managed by the Corrections Department.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, prison authorities recorded 2,179 cases of inmates possessing banned communication devices. Since 2015, over 35,000 cellphones have been confiscated in facilities housing around 16,000 inmates.

Stirling has been advocating for legislative changes that would explicitly categorize cellphones as illegal in prisons, separate from general contraband. This change would allow additional penalties for possession, including up to one extra year in prison for a first offense and up to five years for subsequent offenses.

Read also: Battle over budget priorities in South Carolina

Despite these efforts, the proposed legislation has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee and has not advanced.

Latest

Biden’s inappropriate comments in Georgia could push Black voters even further away from him

With less than six months until the November general...

Stark warning for Biden: Florida Congressman impeachment threat gains momentum

As all eyes are on Trump’s hush-money trial in...

California Gov. Newsom issues dire alert on ‘corrupted’ Trump’s plan that could ruin America

The American public continues to hunger for official information...

Newsletter

From the web

Biden’s inappropriate comments in Georgia could push Black voters even further away from him

With less than six months until the November general election, the presidential race seems to be so tied that surveys show each candidate currently...

Stark warning for Biden: Florida Congressman impeachment threat gains momentum

As all eyes are on Trump’s hush-money trial in New York, things could soon take a sudden turn after a Florida Congressman is reportedly...

California Gov. Newsom issues dire alert on ‘corrupted’ Trump’s plan that could ruin America

The American public continues to hunger for official information and details about a recent Florida meeting between former president Donald Trump and top oil...